‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ vs. ‘Ghostbusters’ 2016: Which Is Better?

The Ghostbusters franchise started off fairly straightforward. The 1984 original starred Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson as a team devoted to capturing and eliminating paranormal threats. However, after 1989’s Ghostbusters II failed to meet expectations, the series laid dormant for decades. But in recent years, two different movies attempted to revive the franchise. But which is better, the 2016 reboot or 2021’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife?

Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and 'Ghostbusters' director Paul Feig
Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and ‘Ghostbusters’ director Paul Feig | Todd Williamson

Fans and critics are divided over the 2016 ‘Ghostbusters’ reboot

Of course, 2016’s Ghostbusters — also known as Ghostbusters: Answer the Call — has become widely known as one of the internet’s most divisive movies. Directed by Paul Feig, the movie restarts the franchise with a new cast of characters played by Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. But some longtime fans rejected Feig’s new take on the material, attacking the movie with disparaging reviews as a result.

However, the 2016 Ghostbusters earned mostly positive reviews from critics. The film received a 73 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes compared to the 63 percent rating Ghostbusters: Afterlife would later earn. Despite its nods to the original film, Feig’s take brings a lot of his own stylistic touches as well as a new crew of Ghostbusters audiences could have followed in subsequent adventures, at least had the film been more widely embraced.

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‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ takes a much more direct approach

Five years later, Ghostbusters: Afterlife would take a much more reverent approach to the franchise. Rather than a fresh start, director Jason Reitman — son of the original film’s director, the late Ivan Reitman — brought the mythos of the 1984 classic into the present day. It much more directly follows the story of those earlier movies, and its third act, in fact, harkens completely back to that of the first film. Its critics even say it hews too closely to the original.

But Reitman’s movie also ties up unresolved story arcs, including a proper farewell for Ramis. Although Ghostbusters: Afterlife earned nearly the same domestic box office total as the 2016 film, it did so during a pandemic and reportedly with nearly half the budget. Perhaps most importantly for some fans, it leaves the Ghostbusters franchise ready to finally move on from what’s come before and embrace something new.

Which franchise relaunch is ultimately the better film?

Comparing Ghostbusters 2016 and Ghostbusters: Afterlife is an interesting case of two wildly different efforts to pinpoint what fans want. Not since the Terminator films — another series which, weirdly, began in 1984 — has a franchise been so uncertain of where to go next. And certainly, there is an argument for why either of the two most recent Ghostbusters movies is the preferred way to carry the ghost-busting sci-fi comedies forward.

The 2016 edition tries something new with mixed results, while Afterlife retreads perhaps too much of the same terrain. Fans will no doubt continue to stump for their favorite Ghostbusters follow-up. But ultimately, even if the battle amongst fans continues on, it already appears that Ghostbusters: Afterlife has won the war. After all, Sony confirmed in 2022 that a sequel is in the works. Although details are scarce, the winner among these two is clear.

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